Many people often consider keeping chickens and it really is a worthwhile exercise particularly if you have a garden and you can spare the time.
After all, keeping chickens has become increasingly popular in recent years, with many people opting to raise their own flock for a variety of reasons, not least being locked up for the best part of two years under the pandemic. While there are several benefits to keeping chickens, there are also some drawbacks that should be considered before taking the plunge. In this months' article, we'll take a look at the pros and cons of keeping chickens.
One of the biggest benefits of keeping chickens is the (almost) constant supply of fresh eggs. Not only are they delicious, but they're also a great source of protein. In addition, having your own chickens ensures that you know exactly where your food is coming from and how it's being produced - something increasingly rare in our urbanised societies - and what your chickens are getting to eat directly affects the taste of your eggs. Hence try and give them food scraps from your kitchen, they love them!
Pest Control and Fertilizer
Chickens are natural pest controllers, eating insects such as ticks, mosquitoes, and other pests that can damage your garden, IF you allow them roaming rights! They also produce high-quality fertilizer that can be used to nourish your plants and vegetables. Just beware they are equally adept at scratching up and eating newly planted seeds and young plants!
Chickens are relatively low maintenance animals, only requiring daily feeding, watering, and egg collection. They're also hardy and can adapt to a variety of climates, making them ideal for home husbandry. They occasionally need some medication for things like feather mites but that's not that often so long as their coop is regularly cleaned out.
Chickens can also make great pets, companions even, as they're social animals that can recognize their owners and even enjoy being petted. They're also fun to watch, with their quirky personalities and particular ways of doing things, especially bantams.
Keeping chickens can be a fun and educational activity for both children and adults alike. It teaches responsibility, animal care, and can even lead to a greater appreciation for where our food comes from.
One of the biggest drawbacks of keeping chickens is the initial cost. Building or buying a hen house or coop, enclosing a run (wire netting is expensive), purchasing feed and supplies, and buying the animals themselves can add up quickly. However, these costs can be offset by getting free rescue hens and/or buying second hand equipment.
While chickens are relatively low maintenance, but they do require daily care and attention. This can be a challenge for those with busy schedules, as they'll need to be fed, watered, and let out of their coop every day, even when you are on holiday!
Noise and Smell
Chickens can be noisy animals, especially when they're laying eggs or feeling threatened, or you keep cockerels. They can also produce a strong odour, especially if kept in an enclosed space with limited air circulation.
Chickens are vulnerable to predators such as foxes, rats and even local dogs. It's important to take precautions to protect your flock, such as building a secure coop and run (with dug in netting that goes at least 8 inches into the ground to prevent digging) and be aware that foxes don't just operate at night, such is the boldness and ubiquity of suburban, or even rural foxes, these days.
Before starting your own chicken flock, it's important to check your local zoning laws and it would be wise to check with the neighbours too about your plans. Some heavily built up areas may prohibit chickens, while others may have strict regulations on the number of chickens you can keep.
Keeping chickens has many benefits, from a constant supply of fresh eggs to natural pest control and fertilizer. However, there are also some drawbacks, including initial costs, time commitment, noise and smell, predators, and zoning laws. Ultimately, whether or not to keep chickens comes down to personal preference and lifestyle. With the right planning and care, raising your own flock can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience.